She marched resolutely across the grass and swatted her brother in the back of the head, ignoring the serious conversation he’d been having with Teague and Seamus. Phelan yelped, putting a hand to the back of his head as he glared at her.
“Gods and monsters, take your rings off when you do that!”
Aoife snarled at him. “What did you get Neve and I mixed up in? Uncle’s forbidden us to go to the villages. I don’t even know what we’ve done!”
Phelan put up his hands. “It wasn’t me, Aoife.”
“No,” Seamus said, shaking his head slowly. “It wasn’t. Father’s forbidden all of us from going, not just you two.” He looked sidelong at Teague, his expression growing dark. “There is a war in the making, Brother.”
“I won’t forsake her, no matter what Father wants.”
Aoife stared at them. “The chieftain’s daughter? Have you bedded her yet?”
Phelan snorted indelicately and Teague glared at him.
“Yes,” he said through clenched teeth. “We’re promised, no matter what Father has to say about it.”
Seamus shook his head again. “He won’t let it be, Teague, so leave off before you shatter the girl.”
“She’s carrying my child, Seamus.”
Everything went quiet and still for a few long, aching moments before Teague shook his head and turned to leave.
“I don’t care what Father says about it, either.”
Seamus grabbed his arm. “Teague, wait.”
Teague shook him off, but turned back anyway. “Why? So you can tell me what a great disappointment that would make me? About how Father will have a fit to end all fits?”
Seamus shook his face again, his face pale. “No. For once, no.”
“That’s a relief.”
Phelan looked at Aoife, then between the brothers. He put his hand gently on Teague’s shoulder. “Settle. Let him talk.”
“Teague, they know about the village.” Seamus’s voice shook. Aoife shifted uncomfortably, swallowing bile. Seamus wasn’t scared of a damned thing.
“Who knows, Seamus?”
“The—the others. The enemy. The ones who are about to invade us and start a war. They know about the village. That’s why Father’s forbidden us from going. He’s trying to protect us.”
“What about protecting them?” Teague hissed. “Did he even think to warn them?”
Seamus rocked back against his heels. “I don’t know.”
“Well, someone ought to.” Teague started to walk away again.
Aoife looked between Seamus and Teague, then turned to follow Teague. “Teague, wait!”
• • •
“How is she?” Kes asked softly, rubbing her eyes as she drifted into the corner where Eva lay, whimpering and twisting in the midst of dreams.
Gray just shook his head, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes. “No change. Still having nightmares.” He rubbed a hand roughly over his eyes. “Elton said we were lucky—that she was lucky, actually. If she’d collapsed somewhere without someone who had medical training, she might not have made it. Bullet out and stitched up just in time.” He stared blankly at Eva, then reached to pull one of the blankets down over her bare leg. “Days,” he muttered. “It’s been days and nothing.”
Kes reached down and squeezed his shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” he rumbled. “No. She understood, Kes. In ways that no one else ever has, knows the things I’ve seen somehow without me saying. I should feel like I’ve been violated but I don’t.”
Her fingers tightened as he slumped slightly in the chair, still staring at Eva’s pale face, wreathed in limp chestnut curls.
“She keeps muttering names, words in some language I don’t understand. Wat said it sounded like Gaelic or Welsh or something.” Gray shook his head slowly, then rolled his shoulders, cracked his neck. “Maybe it is, with that story,” he murmured, leaning back. Kes put her arms around his shoulders.
Gray exhaled a sigh. “Thanks, Kes. I needed that.”
“Thought maybe you would,” she said softly, giving him one more squeeze before straightening up. “Are you and Teca still fighting?”
“Mostly not speaking. Her end, not mine.” He closed his eyes. “It’s not important. She’ll get over it all soon enough. Figure it out. I just know she hasn’t scryed since Eva got here. It’s a relief.”
Kes shook her head slightly. “You really don’t like the idea of her doing that, do you?”
A shudder ran through Gray. “No. I just feel like she’s making herself and the rest of us vulnerable to—to—to I don’t know what. To the other things that are out there, like Eva warned her.”
Kes knelt down slowly next to his chair. “There’s really stuff like that out there? Like monsters and stuff?”
“Call me crazy, but yes,” Gray said quietly. “It’s out there, been out there, thumping around. Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t all just some kind of game to Teca, because she’s never seen them before—from the sound, none of you have. I have. I always have, they’ve always been there, lurking somewhere nearby, always just beyond my grasp.” He shook his head again. “I never talked about it because what the hell was the point? All I could ever do was put out the fires after they started. I guess I did a good job, because none of you ever seemed to catch on.” He pressed his thumbs against his eyes. “Maybe now that’ll change.”
“Maybe,” Kes said, staring at Eva for a moment. The other woman whimpered a name.
“She says that one a lot,” Gray said. “Teague.”
“She mentioned him when she was telling her story,” Kes said. “I remember. Prince of Princes or something like that. She sounded angry at him.”
Gray nodded. “And she never really explained who he was or why he was important or anything like that. I’ve started to wonder.”
Kes shrugged slightly. “Hopefully she’ll wake up soon and we’ll know why he was important. If he’s important.”
Gray just kept staring at Eva, silent, nodding only after a few long moments. “Yeah. Hopefully.”